Juri Mutou is the daughter of a once-famous pianist whose career came to an end after giving birth to her. After a traumatic event she experienced as a teenager, Juri has attempted suicide three times and has come to hate her mother. With her life clouded due to a dark past, her aunt Monica, a member of the clergy, invites her to visit a convict sentenced to death.
Yuu is a death row inmate charged with murdering three people, leading to many attempts at ending his own life within his jail cell. He frequently receives letters from Monica, who hopes to help him, but sees this as as an act of pity. But when Yuu decides to meet Monica to say that he wants her to stop sending letters, he encounters Juri, a meeting that would change both of their lives.
One reason why I like seinen and josei manga is that the themes, characters, and messages presented are sophisticated. Not to say that shoujo and shounen manga aren't, but the percentage of the latter manga that actually contain such attributes is minimal. Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Time) was a surprisingly astounding read I came across around one in the morning, hoping to find something short, sweet, and rid of filler material. Upon reading the first few pages of the manga, I realized that what I discovered was much, much more than just that, and consequently provided a MEANINGFUL literary experience -- something that tends to be rare when it comes to manga, which particularly specializes in fan-service.
The reader is quickly introduced to protagonist Juri and her wish to commit suicide, though reasons are not completely revealed until the latter half of Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan. She's then taken by her nun of an aunt to accompany her visits to jail, where the aunt attempts to emotionally aid convicts. There, Juri meets serial killer Yuu, who has a death sentence hanging over his head. The rest of the manga unravels the tragic pasts of both Juri and Yuu, and we begin to discover why they act as they do (or did). Though it was initually Juri who was supposed to provide help for Yuu, he also returns that same favour by gently letting her realize the beauty of the world, and of life itself. It's a heartwarming tale that not only delves into both characters' pasts, but also brings the characteristic contribution from the past to the present in order to resolve each other's current conflicts, providing a wonderfully woven tale that ties in a clean knot at the very end.
The first few pages of the manga gives the reader a concrete idea of what the artist is capable of. Characters are drawn extremely cleanly and with incredibly accurate proportions (and you'd be surprised how many mangakas can't draw properly, despite the nature of their occupation). Expressions are also well-conveyed. Backgrounds are present enough such that the reader has a general idea of where the characters are, though some more use of far shots would have helped establish a sense of relative position between characters and create greater atmosphere. Nonetheless, the mangaka made great use of toning to compensate and was able to generate a solemn mood throughout the story -- fitting for its nature.
Juri and Yuu are very convincing characters in that they actually have dimension. They're believable. It's not often you find (in manga) suicidal women that have understandable reasons for their actions, and convicts that actually seem to be human, including wishes, likes, and quirks. Definitely one of the strongest points of Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan. Juri and Yuu may not stand out, or even be likable for many, but they're relatable. The characters' pasts AND present states are so well fleshed-out that you can't help but empathize. You can't help but realize the dire states that both Yuu and Juri are in, and I believe it's empathy that's lacking in a very large portion of today's manga. Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan is able to bring that back to us by providing such attention to detail; the mangaka explores every nook and cranny of both characters' personalities to ensure that with each action, there's justification for it through characterization.
Quite a mellow story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it because of that. The morals and messages given pertaining to gratefulness are absolutely heartwrenching. As a reader, I wanted to know more and more about the tales of Yuu and Juri, and eight chapters more than sufficed, given the well-paced plot and character development.
A must-read for those who know how to appreciate an actually well-written manga that's not out in the market to simply vaccuum our wallets like virtually every other manga out there. And even if you don't like it (and admittedly the dark nature of it is not everyone's cup of tea), the beauty of it is that it's only eight chapters long.read more
Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (1 Volume/8 Chapters)
One brilliant story created by the famed mangaka Yumeka Sumomo, who's various works have comprised themes of elegance, beauty, and emotion. I don't believe words can summize just how magnificent and wonderful this artistic piece actually is. There was literally nothing wasted in the emotional impact delivered by the characters and their progressive development throughout the story.
Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan poses the hard questions that plague the human conscience, is it right to contemplate suicide in order to escape your life's seeming hardships? Does someone who's murdered three people in cold blood deserve the death penalty? Can a persons past discretion's be redeemed by someone who shares in their personal feelings and unsightly anguish?
The emotional impact delivered by this piece was both beautiful as well as astonishing. My eyes simply could not hold back the tears, I genuinely felt for each and every character. This story was absolutely amazing and I'll always cherish this relatively short read that was filled with a certain emotional value, in conjunction with a mature conveyance of intellect and growth.
Our Happy Time is not just a mediocre manga, it's plenty pretentious too. This pure cheese story starts off with some grim subject matter and continues to vomit more grim subject matter at you until you are beaten and bored. It's a cliche narrative about an inmate on death row who finds a reason to live again through love. With no exceptional visuals and no original characters, this manga reads like the pulpiest young adult fiction imaginable. There's no nuance, there's no subtlety, and the self-righteousness of the main character is suffocating.
If this manga was an attempt to argue against the death penalty it does so weakly. It presents an incredibly one-sided perspective about death row and it's cruelty and actually goes as far as to pardon murder. It paints the lead male out as a stoic hero, sadly brazen by life's overwhelming cruelty. Everyone feels bad for the handsome prisoner in this manga. No one understands him truly though, except our suicidal mary-sue whose mother used to beat her.
There's just so much extraneous schlock in this disgustingly cheap story of "redemption" and revitalization. Why was it packed with so much teen angst for a story about adults? This story deals with real issues dubiously and over saturates their significance. With rape, murder, suicide, crime and self-loathing all snowballed into one goofy mess I can't bear to give this lazily drawn shoujo drivel anything more than a poor to dreadful score.
Check back on this page often to see when it's getting it's LifeTime movie adaptation. read more
As far back as I can recall, I've always had a soft spot for tragic romances (I blame you, Shahrukh Khan and your Kal Ho Naa Ho!). There's a melancholic charm to be found in these stories that makes everything more heartfelt and sincere and those are two things that a lot of conventional romances these days tend to lack. Of course, with that said there's always something underwhelming to be found with these kinds of romances as well. The way these stories present themselves makes it painfully obvious that it will end in a certain way, and that just takes some of the fun out of it for me. One of life's many pleasures for me is trying to figure out how a manga I'm reading will end, but that can't exactly happen if I already have a good idea of how it'll end. Does this mean that stories such as Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan aren't worth reading? Of course not. They're definitely worth reading, but I wouldn't put it past you if you didn't find yourself crying rivers like some people claim they have whilst reading it.
I'd like to take the time to point out that Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan is first and foremost, a manga adaptation of the Korean novel: "Our Happy Time" by Gong Ji-young. Considering the fact that the manga's so short and I actually have read the source material from end to end, I'll just want to make a few things clear:
- I'll be referring to Yuu and Juri as Yunsu and Yujeong respectively, as those are their names in the source material.
- I'll be referring to "Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan" as "the manga" for simplicity's sake.
- In reference to the book, I'll be referring to it as either "the source material" or "Our Happy Time."
- Given the fact that the manga's so short, this is less of a review of the manga and more of a review of the source material since I didn't want this review to be so short and worthless.
Got all that? Good. Let's get into it.
Our Happy Time is a Korean romance novel written by bestselling author, Gong Ji-young that chronicles the story of a suicidal former teen pop star named Yujeong and her interactions with a Death Row inmate named Yunsu. After her third suicide attempt, she decides to skip going to rehab once more so that she can go visit Death Row inmates with her Aunt Monica. Through these meetings, Yujeong and Yunsu meet and they start learning more about one another as time goes on. The novel makes it incredibly clear that Yujeong and Yunsu are polar opposites both in birth and in upbringing. Of course, this isn't to say that they don't share any common ground because they actually do.
Despite the fact that Yujeong has lived an incredibly privileged life, it's quite evident that she is NOT the picture of what a well-adjusted person looks like. In between her terrible relationship with her mother (who openly displays animosity toward her daughter), a series of unfortunate events that befell her when she was younger, followed by the subsequent isolation she felt in her teen years, it's no surprise to see why Yujeong tried committing suicide multiple times in her life. This isn't to say that Yujeong is a one-note character and her strife is all that defines her because that couldn't be further from the truth because she's invariably human in her portrayal. Anyone who's dealt with or is still dealing with depression will find Yujeong to be nothing short of an empathetic character.
Yunsu on the other hand enters the picture as an unrepentant and hostile Death Row inmate: someone whom most of us would say deserves to die if we were to meet this man in person. Every chapter in the novel is preceded by a "Blue Note" which documents Yunsu's life story. We see the very circumstances that shaped him into the person we see him as now. Unlike Yujeong, Yunsu lived a life of abject poverty and has known nothing but strife throughout his childhood. In between living with abusive parents, dealing with bullies at the orphanage, being homeless for various stretches of time, among other things, Yunsu's childhood innocence was wiped away and replaced with the demeanour of a hardened criminal for as long as he could remember. At first, Yunsu doesn't seem like someone we can relate to but again, that couldn't be further from the truth. Yunsu speaks out to those of us who've ever been afraid to open up to others because we don't want to make ourselves vulnerable, those of us who've ever longed for a second chance that we know we'll never get, those of us who genuinely feel remorse over the actions of our past and wish to be forgiven, among other such things.
Yunsu and Yujeong's relationship is that which defies superficial contrasts in upbringing. Brought together by Aunt Monica and drawn to one another by their mutual loneliness, they find a comforting message in each other's company: "you are not alone." This is Our Happy Time's greatest strength: the romance between Yunsu and Yujeong is incredibly well-developed and just feels so genuine. What's more is that you know that the days that Yunsu and Yujeong have together are limited, so it just keeps your eyes glued to the page and also makes you anxious to even turn the next page because you know not what development would come next.
In addition to that, Our Happy Time reminds us all that those of us who've committed countless atrocities in the past are still capable of redeeming themselves. Make no mistake: Yunsu's past actions are condemned to hell and back in this novel, but Gong Ji-young does not go out of her way to portray Yunsu as a monster. Despite the fact that Yunsu has committed many crimes in his lifetime and might not even deserve forgiveness from those who he's wronged, he is still invariably a human and deserves our sympathy at the very least. I feel like where Elfen Lied failed with its attempts at showing whether or not someone is truly capable of atoning for the sins of their past, Our Happy Time succeeded. Yunsu is everything that Lucy should've been but wasn't.
For all these reasons and more, Gong Ji-young's Our Happy Time is certainly a novel that I heartily recommend reading. Now, there exist two adaptations of it to my knowledge: a live-action film adaptation produced in 2006 and a manga adaptation made in 2008. I'd talk about the film adaptation but this is a site dedicated to anime and manga, so I'll skip that and talk about the manga. What do I think about it? Well... it was the thing that got me to pick up a copy of the source material off Amazon for $10 so it has that going for it. But as someone who craves depth and detail alongside his romances, the manga doesn't exactly do it for me.
When I read the manga, I instantly became attached to Yujeong and Yunsu but I actually ended up completing the entire manga within the span of 45 minutes. When I finished the final chapter, I was actually on the bus on my way to English and it was just so... shall we say, dissatisfying? When I picked up the actual novel to see what I missed out on, it turns out that I missed out on a LOT of stuff like the specifics of Yunsu's terrible past among other things. Everything that the manga was missing out on, the novel had. I know that conventional literature and manga are two totally different mediums but there was a LOT of stuff present in the novel that could've easily translated over to a monga context without any problems whatsoever. It just baffles me as to how the manga was even penned like this. If it were a one-shot, I could forgive that but this was actually serialised over the course of several months. Why couldn't we get more? Ultimately, that's a question that'll probably never be answered but it still irks me.
It also doesn't help that the manga's artwork is just so... bleh. In some of the manga's most iconic scenes (i.e. when Yujeong is playing the piano for Yunsu before the inevitable happens, that panel where they're holding hands whilst Yunsu is chained up), it looks good but it never goes into great territory and there are some parts of the manga that just look really badly drawn (cough cough the image that MAL uses for this manga's database page cough cough). I mean, it's fine for what it does but you probably won't see me using images from the manga as a Facebook cover any time soon.
This isn't to say that the manga isn't worth reading, because I still say it is. For what it's worth, it focuses on Yunsu and Yujeong in the present so that their relationship could develop a lot quicker. For what it's worth, the manga also stays 100% spot-on with Yunsu and Yujeong's characterisations, so the relationship between the two still felt sincere as fuck. I just wanted to see it play out a little longer, but I guess we can't get what we want all the time. Anyway, that's all for now. Feedback's welcome and all that, so I'm out. Peace :)
I finished this review at 3am when I first wrote it, and I finished my revisions an hour later. Writing reviews is so tedious sometimes. Also, I still think Lilium fits the tone of the story quite well. G'night.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWW8DMpfI9U read more
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